This past weekend, I decided I was overdue for a trip to the capital. So, I packed my backpack and found a hostel close to the metro where I could fulfill all my tourist-y desires in Taipei. And luckily, I just missed Typhoon Matmo and had a pleasant weekend with beautiful clear skies.
One favorite that you can’t miss while in Taiwan is the National Palace Museum. Just looking at the museum is breathtaking.
The museum is full of art and calligraphy by famous Japanese and Chinese artists who were inspired by Taiwan’s geographical features and locals. The third floor features intricate carvings in items as small as a walnut shell. Jadeite is also featured including the famous cabbage piece.
When my new hostel friends showed me their jade cabbage key-chains, I thought Taiwan had a bizarre vegetable trend; but actually, this jadeite piece is one of the most important and well known works of art in Taiwan. Seeing the display in person allowed me to appreciate the extreme intricacies of the piece; from the ruffles of the leaves to the insects carved into the top. The piece was made for a wedding gift for one of the emperors during the Qing dynasty and the grasshoppers on the top represent the emperor’s wish to have children. The museum insists that the jadeite has many flaws; however, the artist hid them within this piece making it even more remarkable.
If you set foot in Taipei, you also can’t help but see Taipei 101 which was the tallest building in the world until 2004. In 2011, it was awarded the LEED Platinum Certificate making it the tallest green building in the world. And it also apparently has the world’s fastest elevators.
Going to the top of Taipei 101 provided some fantastic views that you won’t want to miss. There’s an observatory deck up top where you can also take a stroll outside. However, it’s a bit pricey and the lines to the top take forever. I waited an hour to go up and another hour to go down. If you’re trying to save some time and money, I was later clued in by some guys in my hostel that you can go to the 35th floor if you purchase a Starbucks coffee drink. Although not quite as high as 89, they assured me that the 35th floor is higher than the other buildings around and offers a great view.
I also had the opportunity to hike up Xiangshan, or Elephant Mountain to watch the sunset on Taipei 101. The hike is a bit tiring, as its 500 meters straight up a bunch of stairs, but the view is spectacular and its a pretty short distance. Unfortunately, many other people have the same idea and the mountain is covered with other photographers and tourists so try and get there early!